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Volunteers use “Nifty Nabber” trash grabbing poles at the Westfield River Watershed Association’s cleanup last October at Pynchon Point.

Photo credit: Sheryl Becker

AGAWAM — The Westfield River Watershed Association is planning to host its Agawam spring cleanup from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, April 27, but it may be rescheduled due to the high water levels of the Westfield and Connecticut rivers.

The steep river banks in town, said WRWA Board Member Sheryl Becker, are to blame.

“We don’t have that much of a riverfront, so it’s very frustrating when we get the high water levels,” said Becker. “We don’t have as much room to clean … we hate to have people come and not have enough land for them to clean.”

Heavy rain and climate change, she said, are also making it harder to do spring cleanups.

Should the event be rescheduled, the WRWA will update its website, westfieldriver.org, and Facebook event page, fb.me/e/4lVYxLVbi, as well as notify those on its email list. The latest people would know is April 26, Becker said.

The WRWA’s Westfield cleanup, which is happening the same day, will take place regardless of the water level, as the riverbanks there are less steep, she said.

Should the day go as planned, Agawam volunteers will gather at the Pynchon Point parking lot on River Street. There will be a table there with supplies — buckets, bags, gloves and “Nifty Nabber” trash grabbing poles — and snacks. There will also be a water cooler, though Becker encouraged volunteers to bring their own, preferably reusable, water bottles.  Volunteers should wear clothes that can get dirty, as well as sturdy footwear.

An orientation will take place at 9 a.m. Afterward, volunteers will tackle the area where the Westfield and Connecticut rivers meet. Trash there, Becker said, tends to come from people doing recreational activities, like fishing, picnicking, kayaking or walking dogs. She said people needed to clean up after themselves and use the river responsibly.

“We cannot take our rivers for granted,” she said. “We need to cherish them. We need to appreciate them and protect them.”

These cleanups run twice a year. In recent years, volunteers have found a lot of plastic bags, food containers and miniature liquor bottles (“nips”). At the WRWA’s fall cleanup, within a few hours, 410 nip bottles were found. Becker said people used to use Pynchon Point as dumping grounds, leaving behind furniture and car parts.

Volunteers do not need to sign up in advance, though they will have to sign a waiver. They also do not need to stay until 1 p.m., and can come and go as they please. An average of 20 volunteers participate in each cleanup, Becker said, and she’s hoping for more this time.

To help out on non-cleanup days, Becker said people can run cleanups of their own by organizing them on the WRWA Community Group page on Facebook. She said she can help set one up, and the association can provide supplies.

“We want people to communicate and work together to help the river,” she said.

Both the Agawam and Westfield events are dedicated to Jack Coughlin, who spent his late 70s picking up trash around Agawam and advocating for a bill extending the bottle deposit law to include nips. He was struck by a car in January 2021, which paralyzed him. He died that April.

People can contact Becker with questions at 413-374-1921 or sher1earth69@gmail.com.

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